Quite frankly, I’m tired of brash bystanders looking at a modified car & saying, “If it needed that, the factory would have done it.” Or, “If that were necessary, it would have come that way.” Well hold onto your lug nuts wild one, because I’m here to tell you – that’s not true. But not for the typical reasons you might expect…

See, automotive manufacturers are like the head chefs in the kitchen of innovation

They whip up these well-balanced meals we call cars. BUT – they have to cater to a very diverse crowd with varying tastes. That means they often have to find a middle ground. Nothing too spicy. So yes, they innovate… but they do it with a certain level of restraint (as well as liability & cost-consciousness… more on that later).

automotive aftermarket innivation

Now here’s where the magic of the aftermarket world comes into play…

The aftermarket is like the artisanal chefs, specializing in one exquisite dish. They pick a single aspect of a vehicle – suspension, engine components, lighting, seating, braking, aero, etc. And they pour their heart, soul, and R&D into perfecting it. They’re not catering to the masses, they’re catering to the enthusiasts. The cult-culture of daredevils & passion-driven folks who want to turn up the dials and put that secret sauce on it!

So when someone tells you, “If it needed that, the factory would have done it.”

Kindly inform them that your tastebuds want more than just basic school lunch. And that the factory didn’t take it there, because they have to play it safe for all the kids with peanut & sugar allergies. 

automotive aftermarket innovation

We all have a general idea of what a manufacturing process is… 

It usually causes us to think of grand assembly lines, stamping, welding, robotics, hydraulics, automation, CNC, etc. But usually what we DON’T think to include the manufacturing process is – accountants & lawyers. While they’ve become necessary in the modern CYA age, they’re also incredibly annoying. Because they remind us that mass production has limitations, constraints, and budgets to contend with. The car industry ultimately has to create a modern vehicle that protects people from themselves, their distractions, their inabilities, and their eminent lawsuits – not an easy feat.

automotive aftermarket performance

That’s again – where the aftermarket world steps in… 

And this is where it gets exciting. The aftermarket is free from those constraints. They deal with a much more engaged & eager customer. BUT – here’s a crucial point to consider. Right now – auto manufacturers ARE NOT working with the aftermarket the way they should be… and the way they used to. Car makers are using the recent influx of tech to push the aftermarket (and mechanics) out! And to continue to keep their hands in the pie & control the vehicle after the sale. Not cool! Manufacturers are designing new vehicles with locked ECU’s and BCM’s, and purposely overcomplicating components to the point of being virtually tamper-proof. It doesn’t promote a strong & diverse car culture into the future. In fact, it foreshadows the death of it. 

I could delve into this topic & sight examples for days, but it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the occasional gestures still made by today’s manufacturers in the aftermarket’s direction… offering us a glimmer of hope. Toyota seems to be on the same side as the enthusiasts & the aftermarket. And occasionally, manufacturers still grace us with some ‘spirited vehicles’ that are sold with the intent for personalization. But they’re getting fewer & farther between. And – manufactures have also found that spec’ing their performance vehicles out with all the accessories (Brembo brakes, Recaro seats, ground effects, FOX shocks, racks/bumpers, lighting, lockers, etc) yield high profit margin & can quickly double the MSRP of a new vehicle.

automotive aftermarket efficiency

In my background, I’ve had the opportunity to work with service trucks 

These are trucks & vans that are originally designed for customization by end-users or upfitters. But now, even these are arriving from the factory with their own set of significant challenges. Upfitters now find themselves tasked with redesigning switches, switch panels, telematics systems, and more… all while striving/struggling to maintain consistent costs for the end user. When the cost of transportation goes up, the cost of all our goods & services go up.

Regardless of the manufacturer’s intent…

They often overlook the fact that the aftermarket, no matter how challenging the task may seem, remains resolute in its quest to find a solution. We the people (yeah, I know I sound a bit like a town hall speaker). But we the people are unique… we think & act differently. We have distinct needs & desires. And there is NEVER a point where any feature of my car – minus the satellite radio – should be concealed behind a subscription paywall.

automotive aftermarket design efficiency

As much as the EPA and manufacturers may hesitate to admit it… 

We need the aftermarket. We rely on these visionary individuals who venture beyond the confines of corporate accountants. Throughout automotive history – significant innovations are born in the aftermarket and/or motorsports… and ultimately work their way into production vehicles. And it’s important to note, these innovations are NOT just limited to stereotypical emission-bellowing performance, BUT ALSO include safety & efficiency breakthroughs as well. The EPA needs to understand that performance & efficiency often go hand-in-hand in modern times. Efficiency IS performance in a lot of cases. And car culture is not the enemy. So rather than attempting to tie the hands of passionate enthusiasts… USE THEM. 

The aftermarket is indispensable…

Not just within the automotive realm, but everywhere. It’s ‘the aftermarket’ that empowers us to personalize our electronic devices, homes, tools, hobbies, crafts, etc. Manufacturers would be wise to help facilitate & support a STRONG aftermarket around their industry, as it’s a great asset. 

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